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Back again

15 November 2012 | Category: Stories | Author: Clare

As is invariably the case this time of year, if I venture out with the dogs, they chase something.

Sometimes a squirrel, sometimes a deer, sometimes an elk, in transit from higher ground for the winter time.

The animals are on the move and that means the dogs tend to disappear on our morning runs well before I have even reached the gate.

This morning was no different.

As I rolled under our security system (I struggle to find the motivation to unlock the gate when we are on foot) I absentmindedly wondered where they were.

Generally they will come to find me 10 or 20 minutes post disappearance, exhausted, soaking wet, filthy, and thoroughly delighted with life.

I was still thinking about them when I glanced up and around the next bend, and saw a huge black dog standing in the road.

Probably 50 yards away, I was surprised that River had managed to circle around and ahead of me. Just as I was dismissing the idea as impossible, I noticed the huge head, tall stance, shaggy, shaggy coat, and white patch nestled in the otherwise black wolf.

Our visitor was back; or perhaps he had never left.

I have never been afraid of wolves; on the contrary, I have always been fascinated by them, and intently curious about the possibility of some form of co-existence.

But standing not far from the biggest wolf, and possibly only lone wolf, I have ever been acquainted with, I re-considered my perception of them as innocuous creatures.

I was suddenly innately aware, that whilst I may consider myself a dog person, that in no way qualifies me to be a wolf person.

We regarded each other. I decided to lean on the confidence that was quickly packing a bag and threatening to desert me, and started to jog toward him. He slowly loped around, and trotted in the other direction, but not for long, before he stopped and looked back, angling himself across the road.

I hesitated for a moment in my approach, then shook my head in consternation, and carried on, hoping he was aware of the historical record that would attest to my security in this situation.

There are no recorded cases, that I know of, of human-wolf conflict (though it occurred to me that might simply be because no-one ever lived to tell the tale).

He let me close the distance significantly, not flinching, and I aborted the approach at about 15 yards.  I scanned the ground, and keeping an eye on him, leaned down to grab a good sized rock, flustered by his measured ambivalence.

Sadly, the almost winter weather meant the bloody thing was frozen to the ground and could not be persuaded to assist me in any way. I groaned and straightened up.

But for some reason the movement had changed something between us, and as I reached full height, he half ran, half leapt into the forest that extends from the edge of the road. As with any animal he was swallowed by the oblivion; lost in a tangle of trees, deadfall, brush. Like stepping through a star gate to another world. A place where animals move freely, and we stumble and flail around.

As good as invisible to the human eye.

I stood there.

I considered my options.

One - continue, unsure of his whereabouts, and presumably having him watching, or tailing me.

Two - turn around, hope to meet the dogs en route, pretend nothing had happened and cajole them back to the cabin, disappointed at the brevity of their outing, but still euphoric from the most recent hunt.

I did not have time to decide what to do. I whirled around at the sudden sound of panting and running behind me, and nearly fell over with relief to see what suddenly seemed like an undersized Breagha bounding up, all saliva, fatigue, and tired excitement.

She had no idea; nor did River on arrival a few minutes later.

I was tempted to continue, having reinforcements, but I have spent enough time with the dogs to know they would quickly pick up on his scent, and take off after him.

Needless to say we aborted the mission.

The last thing I needed was to have the dogs chase and potentially be savaged by a lone wolf.  I have no idea what the rapport may be between domestic dog, and wild ancestor, but it was something I decided not to investigate.

Sometimes the risk associated with the acquisition of knowledge is just too significant.

Odd idea, perhaps collectively we should have considered that prior to proceeding with the atom bomb, stem cell research, etc.

A broad and complex conversation for another now.

Suffice to say, the human-wolf record is intact.

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